Theatre Research International


Not Magic but Work: Rehearsal and the Production of Meaning



Observation of the rehearsal process provides vivid insights into the dynamically shifting and contingent nature of theatrical meaning-making. Drawing on my experience as an observer of the work process involved in the 2004 production by Brink Productions of Sarah Kane's 4.48 Psychosis, I provide a detailed description of a single work session and an overview of the set design process. Influenced by Clifford Geertz's concept of ‘thick description’, I use these two differently structured aspects of the work process to provide insights into the nature of creative agency in theatre-making process and to argue for the value of ethnographic theory and practice in the emerging field of rehearsal studies.

gay mcauley is an Honorary Professor in the Department of Performance Studies at the University of Sydney. She taught theatre and film in the French Department before establishing Performance Studies as an interdisciplinary centre. Her book Space in Performance (University of Michigan Press, 1999) examines the many functions of space in the theatre experience and she has now extended her exploration of spatial semiotics to site-based performance practices, with particular reference to the relation between place and memory (see Unstable Ground: Performance and the Politics of Place, Peter Lang, 2006). Her current research concerns creative agency in the rehearsal process.